The Geldermalsen: the Wreck and the Porcelain

GeldermalsenThis is a book about the sinking of the Dutch trading vessel the Geldermalson which was wrecked on a reef in January 1752 as it returned from the East Indies.

You can find the book here at Amazon UK

You can find the book here at Amazon USA 

From the preface by Christian Jörg.

“In December 1985 I received a telephone call from Christie’s in Amsterdam. Michael Hatcher had found a new ship with over 150,000 pieces of porcelain. Most of it was already in Amsterdam for an auction in ’86. Perhaps I could come over and have a look.

My acquaintance with Hatcher dates back to 1984. At that time  there was an auction at Christie’s of mid-17th century porcelain, which Hatcher had recovered from the wreck of a Chinese junk. The pieces exceeded everyone’s expectations, to the great disappointment of the museums, whose budget is very limited these days.

Hatcher then donated over 50 pieces to the Groningen Museum as a basis for a public reference collection.

And now Christie’s had called about a much larger find. I’m not likely to forget the visit I paid to Amsterdam shortly after that phone call. We went to a shed in the dock area and there, on wooden racks, I saw endless rows of porcelain, Cups, saucers, plates, bowls…stacks and stacks of them. This is how it must have looked in the days of the Dutch East India Company, I thought. Just a warehouse full of porcelain, in all shapes and sizes, merchandise ready for auction. The warehouse of a large present -day department store looks exactly the same; racks of simple crockery meant for the general public. For a little while it was very difficult to see 18th century Chinese porcelain as something exclusive and rare.

Geldermalson Porcelain
Geldermalson Porcelain

After this first impression, excitement and curiosity got the upper hand. What I saw here corresponded nicely to the pictures I had formed of such a cargo when writing my thesis “Porcelain and the Dutch China Trade”. The records had given the impression of the type of porcelain the Dutch East India Company was shipping around the middle of the 18th century., and now I was eSeeing the real thing with mu very own eyes.

But if this had really come from a Dutch ship, then which East Indiaman could it be? The most obvious candidate was the Geldermalsen, which had sunk on her homeward voyage in 1752.

 

 

 

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